Jets vs. Titans 2012 game preview: New York goes for third straight win, playoff hope

USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have won two straight games and three of their last four. Unbelievably, they are still alive in the playoff hunt and have another winnable game against the Titans.

The New York Jets were playing like one of the worst teams in the league five weeks ago, losing by 21 points to the Seahawks after their bye week, which they went into having just lost 30-9 to the Miami Dolphins. Mark Sanchez was playing worse than he had in his underwhelming career, the rest of the offense was a disaster and the defense wasn't much better. There were calls for Tim Tebow to replace Sanchez, calls for Rex Ryan to be fired. Heck, Fireman Ed even stepped down. Things were bad, you guys.

For the Titans, there was no such descent into madness. The whole season was sort of set to be a rebuilding process, with a young quarterback in Jake Locker and not a whole heck of a lot of talent defensively. They're at 4-9, having lost three straight and five of their last six games.

The Jets still have a shot at the playoffs, improbably. They've won their last two games against the Jaguars and the Cardinals — far from impressive victories, these days, but wins are wins — and are now 6-7. If two of the Bengals, Steelers and Colts collapse and the Jets win out, they make the playoffs. Stranger things have happened, but not many.

Meet the Titans

To the average football fan (read: plays fantasy football), the problems with the Titans begin and end with one man: Chris Johnson. The mercurial running back has had massive games this year, but mostly he's been terrible. He's had four games of at least 100 yards and one game with 99 yards, but to start the season, he had games of 4, 17 and 24 yards, and another 24-yarder in Week 5. He's been more of that running back recently. In the Titans' last three games, he's averaged 58.3 yards and hasn't scored.

The defense has been equally as ineffective. Over the course of the season, the Titans have allowed the sixth-most yards, 377.8, and the second-most points, 29.7, in the league. They've played a schedule with some high-powered offenses, including the Chargers before they utterly imploded, but they simply have not been able to contain anybody. Star cornerback Cortland Finnegan signed with the St. Louis Rams in the offseason and the other members of a defense that was once the strength of this team, some years ago, have either aged or signed elsewhere. Simply put, this team hasn't been able to stop anybody this year.

Meet the Jets

What's there to be said about the Jets that ESPN hasn't already annoyed you with? Their quarterback situation is hilariously awful to the point where it seems like Mark Sanchez is only still playing because Ryan doesn't want to give others the satisfaction of seeing Tebow in the job. On the other hand, there have been reports that Tebow has been "terrible" in practice, so Sanchez — he of the 55 percent completion rate and 13 interceptions to 12 touchdowns — is who the Jets have and will continue to roll with.

The team around Sanchez hasn't been nearly as miserable. The defense is still a Top 10 unit in terms of yards allowed, impressive considering they're usually on the field for heaps of time. Shonn Greene hasn't been good enough to be a feature back, but he and Bilal Powell have combined for an adequate tandem. The team resigned Braylon Edwards this week, and the only two years he's been on the team, they made the AFC Championship Game, so that can't be a bad thing.

Most importantly for the Jets, they're still alive. The Steelers lost Sunday, so if the Jets can beat the Titans, Chargers and Bills, and the Bengals lose twice, they're in the playoffs. Amazing as it seems, it's a terrifying possibility.

Local Takes: Titans

TitansJonne from Music City Miracles had a great post this week on the importance of the development of backup tight end Taylor Thompson.

Jared Cook's physical attributes are well documented, a 6'5, 248-pound monster who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. But wrap your head around Thompson's numbers. Standing at 6'6, 280 pounds (yes, 280!), Thompson towers over small corner backs and even most linebackers. But along with his size, he was able to run a 4.5 40 and that coupled with his stellar blocking skills, something Cook still struggles with, Thompson's upside well surpasses Cook's. Not to mention the fact that he runs fluid routes with smooth hips despite being used to having his hand in the ground on the defensive line. Thompson could be one of the league's best.

Local Takes: Jets

Jets blogger Bro Namath at Gang Green Nation previews this week's key game.

The Jets are either the best of the worst teams or the worst of the best AFC teams, depending on your outlook. Most would agree on the former given how the Jets have played so far this season. The Jets will fight tooth and nail for their 7th win while praying for miracles from around the league.

The Titans were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Colts last week. The team has no passing attack and has struggled on the ground for several consecutive weeks. Guaranteed a losing year, the Titans are simply looking to find their identity versus the middled Jets.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Music City Miracles and Gang Green Nation, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@TitansMCM

@GangGreenNation

Titans beat reporter for The Tennessean Jim Wyatt

New York Daily News Jets reporter Manish Mehta

Prediction

As bad as the Jets were in midseason, they seem to be on a little bit of a roll. At the very least, they have proven that they're capable of beating inferior opponents. The Titans have proved that they can lose to just about anybody, but a big game from Chris Johnson can come at any time, and a home Monday Night Football game is probably the best crowd the players are going to see all year. Still, it's hard to pick in their favor. This game should be borderline unwatchable, though.

Jets 13, Titans 9

Odds

The Titans are one-point favorites, according to Oddshark. They have home-field advantage in a primetime game, and both these teams are awful, so the close line is not a surprise.

Next Week

The Titans will go on the road to face the Packers at 1 p.m. next Sunday, so their schedule only gets tougher. The Jets host the Chargers at 1 p.m. Sunday in a game that was originally slated to be on Sunday Night Football.

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